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Armored Cars: VPK Atlet

April 29, 2020

Via Russian media.

A mild surprise at the ARMY 2019 exhibition in Russia was the public display of two new protected 4×4’s from the Military Industrial Company or VPK–the same manufacturer responsible for the GAZ Tigr. Parked side-by-side in the sprawling outdoor venue was the AMN-2 Atlet or “Athlete” and its heftier sibling the VPK Ural mine-resistant truck. Both are in the final stages of testing and will soon enter service with the Russian armed forces. Weighing just 10 tons fully loaded the Atlet is a comprehensive upgrade of the Tigr whose protection level is now deemed lacking. Available in single and double cab variants the Atlet boasts improvements in all aspects that count–armor, combat, and mobility.

To distinguish the Atlet from other vehicles of the same class note the two cables extending between the frontal wheel arches and the roof. The Atlet also retains its engine exhaust affixed next to the windshield just like on the Tigr. Handlebars on the edge of roof allow passengers to either climb or descend from the vehicle. Balancing on the steps beneath the cab doors while grasping the handlebars is possible too, albeit with utmost caution. To date the weapon systems that match the Atlet haven’t been revealed although it’s probable these are the same as those found on the Tigr.

The Atlet’s monocoque hull provides STANAG II and III level ballistic protection–it’s unclear exactly how the armor is distributed–and STANAG 2a/2b explosive resistance against bombs. This means the Atlet shrugs off automatic rifle fire and hand grenades but is in mortal danger when up against large projectiles. The Atlet does have a good chance of surviving roadside bombs and IEDs designed to cripple vehicles thanks to its v-shaped hull. A total of eight people fits inside the vehicle with four seats at the back that are accessible via a rear swing door. All the windows on the Atlet are bulletproof. Other protective measures are smoke grenade dischargers to conceal its movements and external cameras for observing its environment.

Mobility-wise the Atlet has a large 240 horsepower YaMZ-534 turbocharged diesel engine compared to the Tigr and this is apparent in the bulk of its hood. The Atlet manages a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour and is able to wade across shallow waters provided these aren’t over 1.2 meters deep. Since it’s not amphibious the Atlet has no means of propulsion for river or shore crossings. A choice of either automatic or manual transmission is available depending on the end user’s requirements. Since it was unveiled to the public the adoption of the Atlet hasn’t been confirmed but once it enters service its usage could balloon. The Russian army on its own has several vehicles the Atlet can replace, from aging BRDM’s and BTR’s to GAZ jeeps, and this can propel orders from a few hundred to thousands.

For the Atlet to be exported abroad or licensed for assembly and distribution by an overseas partner isn’t far-fetched. It’s not alone in its niche, however, with the Chinese VP11 and the South African RG32M being just two of its closest rivals. More challengers await in Asia and other corners of Europe.

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